Where We Can Help: Illinois Student Misconduct

If you are an Illinois college student, then it is important to understand the additional laws and regulations that govern your school and others at the same educational level. Schools that are part of the Illinois Board of Higher Education follow state guidelines that cover everything from educational options, admissions standards, and school operation. The Illinois Board of Higher Education governs most postsecondary schools in the state of Illinois. If you violate either the school system's rules or other applicable laws, then you can face student misconduct and even criminal charges. If you are facing a misconduct accusation, then it is important that you speak to an experienced attorney-advisor as soon as possible.

What Is the Illinois Board of Higher Education?

The Illinois Board of Higher Education is a statewide board that oversees and governs Illinois colleges and universities. There are six main responsibilities that the board has according to state law. The main statutory responsibilities of the Illinois Board of Higher Education are:

  • Master Planning – the Board must analyze the needs and requirements of the Illinois higher education system and set policies that guide the Illinois system of both public and private universities.
  • Budget – the Board must make recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly regarding budgetary needs for public and private universities in the state. This includes recommendations for operations, grants, and capital improvements.
  • Program Approval – the Board has the power to approve or deny proposals from public university governing boards and the Illinois Community College Board regarding instruction, research, and public service.
  • Institution Approval – the Board has the power to authorize independent institutions to offer different degree programs and ensure that the programs are meeting the required standards of operation.
  • Grant Administration – the Board is authorized to oversee and administer state and federal grant programs that are designed for schools of higher education in Illinois.
  • Information System – the Board is authorized to oversee and maintain a data information system that covers schools of higher education in Illinois.

Most of the responsibilities and authority of the Illinois Board of Higher Education flow from these six main statutory responsibilities. The Illinois Board of Higher Education is a powerful board that has an incredible amount of authority over member schools. Member schools must get approval from the Board to undertake most any major action within a school.

How Many Members Are on the Illinois Board of Higher Education?

The Board of Higher Education is comprised of 16 members. The breakdown of these 16 members is as follows:

  • Ten Board members are appointed by the Governor of Illinois with the advice and consent of the Senate
  • One member from a public university appointed by the Governor of Illinois but without the advice and consent of the Senate
  • One member of a private college who serves as chairman appointed by the Governor of Illinois but without the advice and consent of the Senate
  • One member of an Illinois Community College who serves as chairman of state community colleges
  • One member who serves as the chairman of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission
  • Two student members selected by the recognized advisory committee. One of these student members must be a non-traditional undergraduate student who is at least 24 years old and represents issues of non-traditional students, including having a full-time job or parental responsibilities.

There are ten members of the Illinois Board of Higher Education that are appointed by the Governor of Illinois with the advice and consent of the state Senate, and one of them must be a faculty member at an Illinois public university. The Governor selects the Chairman of the Board, and that member will serve until the Governor selects his or her successor. Out of the ten members selected by the Governor, no more than seven of them shall be part of the same political party. This rule excludes the Chairman.

How Long Are the Terms of Illinois Board of Higher Education Board Members?

The members of the Board who are selected by the Governor and must be confirmed by the Senate serve 6-year terms that expire on January 31st of odd-numbered years. Board members continue their service even after the expiration of their terms until a replacement has been named.
Vacancies on the Board in offices appointed by the Governor shall be filled by appointment by the Governor for the unexpired term. If the appointment is subject to Senate confirmation and the Senate is not in session or is in recess when the appointment is made, the appointee shall serve subject to subsequent Senate approval of the appointment. Student members serve one-year terms that begin on July 1stannually. The members of the Board who represent public and private schools serve one-year terms that begin on July 1st annually.

How Often Does the Illinois Board of Higher Education Meet?

The Board holds regularly scheduled meetings. Special or additional meetings can also be called if decided by the Chairman, if decided by six Board members, or if decided by the Governor of Illinois. Quorums at Board meetings are comprised of eight members. When major decisions regarding new units of instruction, research, or public service of a public college are at issue, then a majority of the 16 members of the Board are required for approval. The members of the Board are not paid for their positions but are reimbursed for traveling and other expenses while engaged in the performance of their duties as Board members.

What Is a Master Plan?

The Board is required to analyze the aims, needs, and requirements of schools of higher education in the State of Illinois. The Board is further required to prepare a master plan which aids in the development and expansion of education for public colleges in the areas of teaching, research, and public service. The master plan of the Board is also expected to include directives regarding affordability and accessibility measures. The Board must prepare the master plan for submission to both the General Assembly and the Governor of Illinois. The Board is expected to continually evaluate and study the master plan developed and must recommend any necessary changes as they deem fit.

What Laws Apply to the Illinois Board of Higher Education?

The Illinois Board of Higher Education is governed by Illinois state law. The laws specific to the Board of Higher Education can be found within the Illinois Compiled Statutes at 110 ILCS 205. This section of law is also known as the Board of Higher Education Act. The Board must follow these laws when:

  • Dealing with any legislation affecting Illinois colleges and universities and their students
  • Dealing with any proposed legislative initiatives to advance Board priorities
  • Addressing any issues raised by General Assembly members

These laws comprehensively cover most issues related to colleges, universities, and their students.

When Is a School Required to Submit an Application to the Illinois Board of Higher Education?

The Boards of Trustees of the following public colleges must get approval from the Illinois Board of Higher Education before establishing any new unit of instruction, research, or public service:

If any of these institutions desire to establish a new school, division, or department in any field of instruction, research, or public service, then they must get Board approval. Schools are allowed to make reasonable and moderate extensions of existing programs without prior approval. The Board may approve or disapprove the proposal or approve modifications to it based on what they think is best for the objectives of an existing or proposed master plan of higher education. The Board of Higher Education can review all the programs at the state universities and colleges. The Board of Higher Education can decide if a program is worth keeping based on how it benefits education and the economy. Each State university will report to the Board on programs of instruction, research, or public service that have been terminated, dissolved, reduced, or consolidated by the university. The university will also report to the Board on all programs of instruction, research, and public service that are not doing well based on how many people enroll in them, how many people finish their degree program, and how much money it costs per degree. The Board will compile an annual report. This report will have information on new programs, old programs that have been closed or consolidated, and low-performing programs. The Board will send this report to the General Assembly. The Board can create rules about what terms and timelines are important for this reporting.

How Do Budget Proposals Work With the Illinois Board of Higher Education?

Respective Boards must submit budget proposals for the upcoming fiscal year by November 15th annually. All budget proposals must follow enacted Board procedures. The Board and its staff should communicate with all public university presidents regularly. They should meet at least every six months to share ideas and work together to make sure the universities offer the best programs and services possible. Starting in Fiscal Year 2013, the Board of Higher Education will recommend budget allocations to public universities based on how well students do in completing degrees and certificates. The Board must adopt rules using metrics for this purpose. The Illinois Community College Board must also adopt rules for how community colleges will be measured. Required metrics must be established and used with the following principles:

  • The metrics need to be developed with help from public institutions of higher education, as well as other state educational agencies and other higher education organizations in Illinois.
  • The metrics will include ways to recognize and reward the success of institutions in helping students who are struggling academically or financially, like first-generation students, low-income students, and students from groups that are traditionally underrepresented in higher education.
  • Different institutions and sectors of higher education have different missions, and the metrics should reflect this.
  • The metrics will focus on the goal of getting more people to complete college courses, certificates, and degrees. The performance metrics will recognize the unique mission of public community colleges while also considering things like how many people enroll in classes, how far they get in their classes, how many people transfer to a 4-year school, and how many people finish their degree.
  • The metrics should be devised to maintain the quality of all programs.

Each State university must submit a plan for improvement of non-instructional facilities to the Board for approval before making any final commitments. The total cost of the project must be more than $2 million for the university's board of control to approve it. Non-instructional uses can include dormitories, union buildings, field houses, stadiums, and other recreational facilities. The Board will vote on whether or not the project is good for the school. If the Board finds that the project is not good for the school, then the project won't happen.

How Does the Illinois Board of Higher Education Set Budgets?

Respective boards are required to prepare an annual capital plan detailing the proposed budget year as well as capital needs for schools over a 3-year period. The plan will show how the money will be spent to finance new projects that will make money for the schools. It will list each project and how much it costs in today's dollars. The plan will include the necessary details for the proposed budget year and 3-year plan. This will show that the projects can meet the debt service requirements, produce enough revenue, and meet life expectancy and maintenance requirements. The annual capital plans must be submitted to the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability by March 15th each year.

How Does the Illinois Board of Higher Education Assist Underrepresented Minorities?

The Illinois Board of Higher Education requires public institutions of higher education to cultivate and apply policies and ideas to increase the involvement of minorities, women, and individuals with disabilities who are typically underrepresented in scholastic programs and activities. Minorities are people who are citizens or lawful permanent residents who are racially classified as:

  • American Indian or Alaska Native – this is an individual who has origins in North, Central, and South America and maintains a tribal affiliation.
  • Asian – this is an individual who has origins in the Far East, including countries such as China, India, Japan, Korea, Pakistan, Malaysia, Cambodia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.
  • Black or African American – this is an individual who has origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.
  • Hispanic or Latino – this is an individual who has origins in Spanish culture, including places like Cuba, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.
  • Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander – this is an individual who has origins in Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or another Pacific Island.

The Board will make sure all public institutions of higher education follow this section. The Board will also:

  • Require all public institutions of higher education to develop and submit plans for the implementation of this section
  • Conduct periodic reviews of public institutions of higher education to determine compliance with this section; if a public institution of higher education is not in compliance with this section, the Board will tell the school what it needs to do to be in compliance
  • Give advice and counsel regarding this section
  • Study and analyze the effectiveness of programs aimed to increase the involvement of minorities, women, and individuals with disabilities who are typically underrepresented in scholastic programs and activities
  • Encourage the recruitment and retention of minority students in schools of higher education
  • Require all public schools to compile and submit appropriate data to demonstrate compliance with the rules of this section
  • Require all public schools to make annual reports regarding the implementation of this section to the General Assembly and the Governor

The reports submitted by public schools must include information regarding each school's minority program budgets, student admission rates, retention rates, graduation rates, and financial assistance awards.

How Does the Illinois Board of Higher Education Seek to Improve Human Relations?

The Illinois Board of Higher Education is required to monitor and evaluate programs that seek to improve human relations involving race, ethnicity, gender, and other issues. Public schools are required by the Board to include coursework that addresses and seeks to improve human relations relating to racism and sexual harassment on campus. Public schools are also required to annually report to the Attorney General and Department of Human Rights on any adjudicated cases that involve racial, ethnic, or religious intimidation or sexual harassment on campus. Finally, public schools are required to forward any hate crime allegations received by campus security or the school's police department to the local prosecutor. Issues of sexual violence include any physical acts or attempted acts against a person's will or when an individual is not capable of giving consent. These acts include sexual battery, abuse, rape, and sexual coercion, among other similar acts.

By the first day of each November, each school of higher education must compile and submit an annual report to the Attorney General and the Department of Human Rights. The annual report must include:

  • The school's most recent policy adopted to comply with the Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act
  • Documentation that informs sexual assault survivors of their rights under the school's policy against sexual violence
  • Information relating to school sexual violence awareness and prevention programs
  • How many cases involving sexual violence, domestic violence, and stalking in violation of Title IX were reported during the year
  • The number of confidential and anonymous reports that were made involving sexual violence, domestic violence, and stalking during the year
  • The number of allegations where the alleged victim chose not to use the institution's complaint resolution process
  • The number of allegations of sexual violence, domestic violence, and stalking that were investigated by the school
  • The number of allegations of sexual violence, domestic violence, and stalking that were referred to the police
  • The number of allegations of sexual violence, domestic violence, and stalking that were reviewed using the school's complaint resolution process
  • The number of students who used the school's complaint resolution process is broken into categories where a student was dismissed, expelled, suspended, disciplined, or found not responsible for allegations of sexual violence, domestic violence, and stalking in the past year

The Illinois Attorney General is required to maintain a public list online that details any school's failures to comply with the annual reporting requirements listed above.

How Does the Board Govern Intercollegiate Athletics?

The Illinois Board of Higher Education seeks to attain gender equity in intercollegiate athletics through different measures. One of these measures is financial assistance. A public school may grant tuition waivers to athletes but may not do so for club sports. To be eligible to grant tuition waivers, a school must file a plan for achieving gender equity in intercollegiate athletics with the Illinois Board of Higher Education. The plan submitted must include:

  • The intercollegiate athletics opportunities available at the school to men and women
  • The activities of the school are meant to achieve gender equity in school sports
  • An understanding of the barriers to achieving equal intercollegiate athletics opportunities at the school for men and women
  • The school's progress regarding equality under Title IX
  • How the school uses tuition waivers to achieve gender equity in school sports

The Illinois Board of Higher Education is required to report to the Governor, and General Assembly regarding each school's submitted plans relating to gender equity in intercollegiate athletics. This report must include each school's financial data, tuition waivers, and degree of compliance with Title IX. The Board's report must be submitted every three years on or before the second Wednesday of April starting in 2002.

How Does the Illinois Board of Higher Education Govern Course Transfers?

The Illinois Board of Higher Education is required to implement a statewide program to inform the public regarding the transfer of courses in public and private institutions of higher education. The information made available must include:

  • Course equivalency guides
  • Academic programs offered
  • Specific courses offered
  • How transfer courses are evaluated
  • School degree requirements

The Illinois Board of Higher Education must give the appropriate level of support to all institutions of higher education that accept course transfers. The information provided regarding course transfers must be updated annually by the Board.

Do Illinois Board of Higher Education Members Undergo Training?

All Illinois Board of Higher Education board members that vote are required to attend at least four hours of leadership training every two years regarding issues that include:

  • Public university law
  • Labor law
  • Contract law
  • Campus sexual violence
  • Financial oversight
  • Ethics
  • Financial accountability
  • Auditing
  • Board member fiduciary duties

All public schools must publish the names of voting members who have completed their required training. These schools must also create an online resource that gives updates on all laws that relate to the school governing boards. This resource must include all documents and resources provided during required training courses. An online portal must also be created for each school's trustees allowing them to submit questions. The chairperson of each school's board must certify how many hours of training each board member receives. This report must be made annually on or before July 31st and must include information from the preceding year.

If a board member has not completed his or her required training, then the board must disseminate this information to the Governor, President and Minority Leaders of the state Senate, and the Speaker and Minority Leader of the State House of Representatives. The school's board must then suspend the board member and give him or her 45 days to complete the required training to be reinstated. If the board member does not complete the required training within 45 days, then the board member is deemed to have resigned. Required training can be provided by the board directly or by an approved training provider. Any vacancies on a board will be filled according to applicable law.

What Role Does the Illinois Board of Higher Education Play With Students?

The Illinois Board of Higher Education requires member schools to enact disciplinary policies on a range of issues. These policies are generally put into a student code. All schools reserve the right to discipline students for conduct that may not be against the law. Students can have their degrees withheld and/or can be dismissed from school depending on the facts and circumstances of any violations. Students can be sanctioned for many types of violations, including:

  • Violence
  • Sexual misconduct
  • Hazing
  • Opposition to school activities
  • Property damage or destruction
  • Improper use of school buildings or resources
  • Violating any local, state, or federal law
  • Improper drug or alcohol use
  • Falsification of any school-related documents
  • Improper possession or use of any weapons

If a student is accused of any of the various forms of misconduct above, then he or she is subject to sanction after an appropriate process takes place.

What Rights Do Students Have?

Students at schools of higher education are afforded many rights that are considered basic under state law, federal law, and the Constitution. Students retain their freedom of expression both in the classroom and on campus, provided their conduct is not disruptive or promotes harm or discrimination against others. Students retain the right to peacefully gather, protest, or conduct other forms of nonviolent opposition. Students also retain all privacy rights afforded to them by state or federal law. Privacy rights extend to on-campus residences and dormitories. If a student feels any of their rights have been violated, then he or she can report violations to a course instructor, who then must report to a department head and ultimately a college dean.

Students are protected under state and federal law regarding their religious expression and practices. Students can request special accommodations for their religious beliefs and practices. Students may not be discriminated against in violation of state and federal law, including discrimination or harassment under Title IX or violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Any students with disabilities are afforded reasonable accommodations under federal law. This can include having more time on exams or additional help for things like notetaking. Students may not engage in romantic relationships with anyone who can make educational decisions. This includes professors where the student is enrolled in the professor's class.

Students are protected against sexual misconduct through state and federal law. Laws that protect students against sexual misconduct include:

Schools must respond promptly to any allegations of sexual misconduct except where:

  • The complainant withdraws the allegations in writing
  • The respondent (accused) is no longer a student at the school
  • There are circumstances that do not allow the school to conduct an appropriate investigation

School student codes must include definitions for the types of violations and misconduct that are prohibited. If a student files a complaint and is later intimidated, discriminated against, threatened, or coerced in any way, then the student may be considered a victim of retaliation. If a student feels that he or she has been subject to retaliation for making a complaint, then the circumstances of the retaliation can be reported to the school for appropriate action.

How Are Disciplinary Measures Handled?

The Illinois Board of Higher Education requires schools to formulate and implement processes to investigate and hear cases that involve student misconduct. Most all Illinois schools have a general process that includes steps to determine whether misconduct has taken place and what type of disciplinary measures are warranted. These steps are generally as follows:

  • Filing a complaint – Students typically must make complaints against other students or staff in writing. If there is a potential violation of the student code or other applicable rule, then the case will be assigned to an individual who will investigate further.
  • Notification to the accused – The person who is accused of misconduct will be notified of the accusation and informed of the nature of the allegation. He or she will also be told who is making the complaint against them and will be given instructions on how to meet with the assigned investigator.
  • Meeting with the investigator – An investigation will proceed regardless of whether the accused meets with the investigator or not. In a meeting with the investigator, the accused will be given the opportunity to give his or her take on the allegations. All information obtained by the investigator will be considered when deciding the next steps in the case.
  • Investigator decision – The investigator can rule on cases as long as the case at hand cannot result in suspension or dismissal of the student if the allegations are found to be true. Cases are expected to be investigated promptly, and any allegations that can result in the suspension or dismissal of the student must be allowed the opportunity for a full hearing.
  • Review of Evidence – The investigator must review all evidence submitted and allow all parties to submit a written response to any information gathered.
  • Decision – If the investigator can make a decision on the matter, then he or she will do so after a careful review of the evidence obtained. This decision will be communicated in writing to both the accuser and the accused, along with any appeal rights and processes if either party decides to file an appeal.

What If a Hearing Is Necessary?

If an investigator cannot make a final decision on a case because of its ability to suspend or dismiss the accused, then a hearing can be necessary. The Illinois Board of Higher Education requires member schools to design and implement appropriate hearing procedures to conform with due process rights and for fundamental fairness to the accused. Schools of higher education in Illinois generally follow a hearing process that includes:

  • Panel Appointment – If a misconduct allegation results in a hearing, then a panel will be appointed to oversee the hearing and make a final decision.
  • Hearing – Hearings are similar to trials, where the complainant will be questioned by the panel, followed by the accused. Both sides will be given the opportunity to present their cases and offer answers to any questions posed by the panel. Any witnesses for either side will be brought in one by one for questioning by the panel. Closing statements may be made by both the complainant and respondent. The panel will then deliberate and determine whether or not the respondent committed the misconduct as alleged. If the respondent is cleared of misconduct, then the case will conclude there. If the respondent is found responsible for committing misconduct, then a second phase of the hearing will take place to determine the appropriate punishment.
  • Punishment phase – If a student is found responsible for misconduct, then he or she will face a hearing to determine appropriate sanctions by the panel. The complainant and respondent may make statements regarding what they believe is the appropriate punishment for the misconduct.
  • Final decision – All decisions made by the panel must be communicated to both the complainant and respondent in writing.

If either the complainant or respondent is not satisfied with the results of the hearing, then he or she may file an appeal according to the appeals process.

How Do Appeals Work?

The complainant and respondent may appeal the final decisions of a hearing panel only if specific circumstances are present. There must be a defect in the proceeding or an issue with the hearing panel appropriately following hearing guidelines or applicable laws. An appeal of a hearing panel decision may be made if:

  • The hearing procedure did not comport with relevant guidelines
  • There is newly discovered evidence that could affect the outcome of the hearing that was not available when the investigation or hearing took place
  • There is a conflict of interest involving the hearing panel or investigator
  • The sanctions imposed by the panel or investigator are not appropriate to the misconduct violation committed

Any appeals must be made in writing and must be submitted with all supporting documents to the appropriate appeals person. The written notice of appeal must include the legal grounds for the appeal, the outcome desired, and any supporting arguments. Any sanctions imposed by the hearing panel will generally be continued while the appeal is being considered. The person who considers the appeal will make a decision regarding the appeal, and that decision is generally final. All final decisions on appeals will be communicated in writing to the complainant and respondent.

How an Attorney-Advisor Can Help

If you are dealing with misconduct either as a complainant or respondent, then you can benefit from the help of an experienced attorney-advisor. An experienced attorney-advisor can help separate you from the investigation and give you counsel regarding how your statements can be used in school hearings as well as criminal court. An attorney-advisor can conduct an independent investigation to help formulate defenses or help uncover evidence that was missed by the school investigator. You can also be represented by an attorney-advisor in specific situations who can help negotiate a resolution to your case and help you avoid having to go through a full hearing. There are many reasons why having an experienced attorney-advisor on your side can be helpful. If you have legal questions, then call us today!

Why Hiring Lento Law is the Right Choice

If you have questions related to an allegation at a school that is governed by the Illinois Board of Higher Education, then it is important to seek the advice of an experienced attorney-advisor. Attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento has helped students across the country with various legal issues, including academic misconduct, sexual misconduct, and general misconduct. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to learn why hiring Lento Law is the right choice to help you with your misconduct case.

Are you a student or the parent of student at an Illinois school, college, or university facing a school-related issue or concern?  Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm can help. The world of academia is unique, and the Lento Law Firm has unparalleled national experience bringing its problem-solving approach and fighting spirit to address school-related injustice.  Attorney Lento and his Firm have helped countless students and families in Illinois and across the United States at the school level and in court.  Please click on the following links for more information.  Please also see our expanded list of school practice areas.

Joseph D. Lento has helped countless students and others in academia in Illinois protect their academic and professional future, and he can do the same for you.  Contact him today at 888-535-3686.

Illinois Public Universities

There are 59 public universities in Illinois enrolling nearly half a million students. The University of Illinois enrolls over ten percent of all students attending public universities in the state.

The public colleges and universities in Illinois are:

  • University of Illinois
  • College of DuPage
  • Illinois State University
  • Northern Illinois University
  • Joliet Junior College
  • College of Lake County
  • Moraine Valley Community College
  • Harper College
  • Southern Illinois University
  • Triton College
  • City Colleges of Chicago
  • Elgin Community College
  • Waubonsee Community College
  • Illinois Central College
  • Southwestern Illinois College
  • Western Illinois University
  • Oakton Community College
  • Northeastern Illinois University
  • Eastern Illinois University
  • Parkland College
  • McHenry County College
  • Lewis and Clark Community College
  • Rock Valley College
  • Lincoln Land Community College
  • Heartland Community College
  • Lake Land College
  • Morton College
  • Black Hawk College
  • South Suburban College
  • John A Logan College
  • Prairie State College
  • Kishwaukee College
  • Kaskaskia College
  • Chicago State University
  • Illinois Valley Community College
  • Kankakee Community College
  • Illinois Easter Community College
  • Danville Area Community College
  • Rend Lake College
  • Richland Community College
  • John Wood Community College
  • Carl Sandburg College
  • Sauk Valley Community College
  • Highland Community College
  • Spoon River College
  • Shawnee Community College

There are also many private colleges in Illinois. While many of them have much more leeway to write their own rules, even private colleges need to conform to certain standards. The (110 ILCS 1005/) Private College Act defines private schools, talks about the degrees they can confer and the fees they can assess. If you feel that your Illinois private college has treated you poorly, you may need to work in a different way to pursue legal options—but you do still have options. Your attorney-advisor will be able to help you determine the best way to proceed.

Contact Us Today!


If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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